Commandments hopes that the ancient stone tablet garners international interest at an auction in Beverly Hills.
Rabbi Saul Deutsch, who currently owns the two-foot-square, 115-pound marble stone, plans to sell it at an auction in November, as well as more than 50 other Bible-related historical artifacts, so he can fund an expansion of his Brooklyn Living Torah Museum.
Experts say the tablet was most likely in a Samaritan synagogue or home in Jabneel, Palestine, which is now Yavneh in modern Israel. It lists nine of the 10 commandments, but the original inscribers left off “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” because they wanted to add an additional commandment directing people to worship on the sacred Mount Gerizim.
According to David Michaels, director of ancient coins for Heritage Auctions (the firm conducting the sale), the synagogue or home that originally housed the tablet was destroyed either by the Romans between 400 and 600 ACE or by the Crusaders in the 11th century.
"The workmen who found it did not recognize its importance and either sold or gave it to a local Arab man, who set the stone into the threshold of a room leading to his inner courtyard, with the inscription facing up," Michaels says. "Some of the letters of the central part of the inscription are blurred -- but still readable under proper lighting -- either from the conditions of its burial or foot traffic while it was resting in the courtyard."
In 1943, the man’s son sold the stone to an archaeologist, who immediately recognized what he had. It’s one of only five known stone inscriptions from that time period.
"It is significant in that it is the only such piece that has secure provenance, a 70-year history of study and scholarship by renowned specialists such as Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, and can now be legally obtained and kept outside of Israel, provided it is placed on public display as per the IAA's requirements," says Michaels.
The one catch: whomever buys the tablet must promise to put it on public display.
Considering the tablet’s rarity—and what it contains—the bidding starts at a remarkably low $250,000.
What Do You Think?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether it’s okay to auction off this ancient stone tablet… and whether you’d buy it if you had an extra $250,000 on-hand. Join the conversation by sharing your views on my Facebook page or on Twitter.